Eight years of dedicated United States' Military service have taught me how to properly wear all elements of the United States' Army uniform, as in particular, how to wear a beret. As a former non-commissioned officer (NCO), prior to accepting a commission as a Second Lieutenant Army officer, the text of Army Regulation 670-1 (the Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia) is engrained in my head. With a constant onslaught of new U.S. Army recruits, that require only the best training, it is important for Non-commissioned officers, especially, to be familiar with these rules and regulations.
Becoming the best soldier you can be, however, reaches far beyond the wear and appearance of the U.S. Army uniform, and how to wear a beret, but it also encompasses many detailed basic soldiering tasks such as the fundamentals of basic rifle marksmanship, as well as, first aid and essential communications protocol. As you continue to read this article, it is important to remember that the wear of the U.S. Army beret is just one element of the complete soldier package. Many of my other Info Barrel articles address other aspect of the wear and appearance of the various U.S. Army service uniforms, and I would highly recommend reading them.
Things You Will Need
- a Black U.S. Army Authorized Beret
- AR 670-1 (Optional)
- Soft Bristle or Lint Brush (rather than a Razor)
- a Match or Cigarette Lighter (Optional, to fray the remaining ribbon)
It is important to realize that military berets are inherently different than the many types of berets that can be worn for fashion and style purposes out in the civilian world. Many of those particular berets have been prepared for wear long before hitting the shelves and becoming available for purchase to the everyday consumer. As opposed to the civilian world, the wear and appearance of the military beret isn't necessarily for style and fashion as much as it is an element of the army uniform that is meant to display distinctive unit cohesion, as well as, present a color and insignia that is representative of your particular unit's organizational structure.
As mentioned in the first step of this article, in my experience, military berets are typically purchased either through an online E-commerce website, or at a military clothing and sales store. You must realize, prior to purchase, that a degree of work will be required to prepare them, and form them to your own head in a way that makes the black beret look more sleek and streamlined, rather than puffy and bloated. If not properly prepared correctly, you can still wear it, however, it will certainly not look as slick as it could otherwise.
When purchasing their first black beret, soldiers oftentimes pick the wrong size. A simple way to know your U.S. Army black beret size is to pick the same size that matches your Army BDU (now ACU) patrol cap. Prior to purchasing, you may want to consider calling your base's local clothing and sales store just to ensure that they have the size that you need. If they don't, this may result in an unwarranted drive, only to be greeted with something like "I don't know when our next shipments of black berets are coming in". While online retailers may vary in communication and product size availability, it doesn't hurt to contact them prior to purchasing, as well. If they don't have your particular size, most will let you know because, of course, they can't place the order if it's not what you want.
While methods of beret preparation may vary, it is important
for a soldier to realize that berets are produced by several manufacturers and
should be handled with care accordingly. Unfortunately, reimbursement for, or
reissue of, a soldier's beret will more than likely not occur if the beret is
prepared by unauthorized preparation methods. As many soldiers, who are
reaching the tail end of basic combat training, can testify to, a new soldier's
first wear of the beret can be an exciting time. After grueling weeks of
training, there is always an ever present temptation to perhaps prepare your
beret in an expedited fashion that could permanently damage it, and/or shrink
it. Years of soldier experience with wearing the U.S. Army black beret has
detailed some fundamental practices that are all founded in appropriate and
As has been my experience, because of the wool material a
beret is made out of, a soldier should never wet, or soak, the beret. This
could cause the beret to shrink or this practice may cause the colors to fade.
The beret's flash may also become distorted if wetting is done during the
preparation phase of handling one's beret.
Varying opinions have emerged regarding the use
of a razor to essentially shave the beret. While I have personally shaved my
own beret(s), it is important to proceed with caution in this step. Eager and
overzealous shaving with a razor could easily lead to the wool being cut
through. Once again, it may be difficult to achieve reimbursement for your
beret if you accidentally manage to destroy it by cutting through it.
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Once you have finished preparing your beret, you have now completed the difficult part required to appropriately wear your beret. Ideally, fitting it to your head will occur simultaneously to your preparation of your beret. Rather than use a razor to accomplish step #4, a soldier may decide to use a more safe form or beret preparation by using a soft bristle or lint brush. You can use this brush while you are wearing, and constantly fitting your beret to your own head.
The edge binding, or narrow black headband, in accordance with U.S. Army regulation, should be worn at least 1 inch above the eyebrows. It should extend completely parallel to your eyebrows from one side of your head to the other side. Many soldiers choose to ark their beret, ever so slightly, towards the eye in which your beret 'flap' favors. While most won't be publicly chastised for this, it is an alteration in army regulation that really isn't authorized or acceptable.
beret's flash, which is typically blue in color and outlined with several tiny
white stars, should be centered above your left eye. By grasping the top
portion of your beret's flash, you will feel a firm cardboard like material
that is the foundation of this flash portion. This is different than the feel
of the remaining, soft, portion of your beret.
The excess beret material should be pulled down, while you grasp the top portion of your flash, which should be correctly placed above your left eye. This excess material can be pulled and gradually worked on during the preparation phase, in order to ensure a more sleek and streamlined feel to your beret.
A non-slip knot should be utilized when you adjust, and tied the black ribbon in the back of your beret. During this step, your comfort is paramount. If you adjust this ribbon too tightly, you will know. Therefore, it is important that you tighten it, but don't tighten to the point where you are cutting off the blood flow to the top of your head.
Just like you tuck the remaining laces into your Class-A shoes, or military combat boots, you should also tuck the tied ribbon into the underside of your beret. When you purchase your beret, this black ribbon will be very long, so you should strongly consider cutting each side down, and fraying the ends with a match or cigarette lighter. Once again, take immediate caution if you choose to expose your beret to an open flame. Wool can catch on fire, however, the excess ribbon will simply solidifying when a flame is exposed to it for a short duration.